Homilette for Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 18:1-8; John 16:16-20)

We know the mechanism of weeping. It is caused by secretion of fluid from the lachrymal glands to lubricate the surface between the eyeball and the eyelid. But exactly why people cry is an open question. Some say simply that it is a response to strong emotions. Others, proceeding from biochemical analysis, claim that it removes hormones associated with stress.

Self-introspection associates crying with loss of affection. We cry when those who love us take their leave. So parents sob at weddings, and the bereaved weep at funerals. For this reason Jesus anticipates the tears of his disciples on the night before his death in the gospel today.

In another gospel and with a different context Jesus tells his disciples, “Blessed are they who mourn for they will be comforted.” The result of tear-shedding in both cases, however, is the same. Crying will not necessarily produce heavenly comfort, but it does when the cause of the tears is the need for Jesus to direct us through moral turmoil and to share our suffering. Also, we must remember that he is not completely gone. Rather he has sent his Spirit to accompany us. The Holy Spirit brings us a foretaste of the joy which comes to fullness as we enter eternal life.

Homilette for Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 17:15.22-18:1; John 16:12-15)

The scene of the first reading will inspire many Christians. Athens represents the epitome of Western Civilization, the home of the philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; of the playwrights Sophocles, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, and Euripides; and of the historians Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon. Now Paul, the best educated and most successful of Christian missionaries, clears his throat to speak to the learned populace. His words do not disappoint us. They, in colloquial terms, “meet the people where they are.” They hint at the superior Greek culture and mention its traditional regard for religion. They also appeal to the people’s strong sense of justice. Certainly, we feel, Paul will win Athens for Christ.

Of course, the result of Paul’s preaching is catastrophic. The Athenians not only reject his ideas; they scoff at him. Their response, “We should like to hear you on this some other time,” is only a nice way of saying, “Get lost.” But Paul learns from this bitter experience. No longer will the apostle meet his audiences with lofty elocution. He will tell the Corinthians that he came preaching Christ crucified. Following Paul, Christianity through the centuries has often defended the gospel with reasonable argument. But it has realized all along that faith is God’s gift that neither rhetoric nor logic can implant.